#85 Houston Football 2013 Preview

Houston Cougars

Overall Rank: #85
#7 American

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Houston has never won the American Athletic Conference in school history. In fact, they’ve never even won a conference game! The good thing is, neither has anyone else. In the first year of existence of the AAC, Houston, coming in fresh, is in the same position as everyone else. After a middling season in their final year as a member of Conference USA, the Cougars hope to pounce on the momentum that new alignment brings. Teams in the AAC will travel farther than they are perhaps used to; they will play opponents who are unfamiliar to them. Houston is in the very same boat as the rest of their conference peers, which gives them hope and confidence heading into the unknown that a simple switch of conferences would not bring. Put another way, Houston’s outlook for their first AAC season is higher than it would be for a season in the Big East.

2012 Record: (5-7, 4-4)
2012 Bowl: none
Coach: Tony Levine (6-7 at Houston, 6-7 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Doug Meacham, Travis Bush
Defensive Coordinator: David Gibbs

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Kenneth Farrow, RB, 466 yards
Passing: David Piland, QB, 2929 yards
Receiving: Dewayne Peace, WR, 603 yards
Tackles: Derrick Mathews, LB, 126; Trevon Stewart, S, 126
Sacks: Derrick Mathews, LB, 6.0
Interceptions: Zach McMillian, DB, 5

Other Key Returnees: WR Daniel Spencer, WR Deontay Greenberry, WR Larry McDuffey, OL Bryce Redman, OL Ty Cloud, OL Ralph Oragwu, DB Kent Brooks, DT Joey Mbu

Key Losses: RB Charles Sims, K Matt Hogan, LB Phillip Steward, LB Everett Daniels, DB D.J. Hayden

Year in and year out, despite roster turnover, quarterback graduation and coaching changes, Houston always delivers with one of the best passing offenses in the country. In 2012 they finished 11th in passing yards per game and 15th in total offense. Behind center a year ago, and returning for his junior campaign, is quarterback David Piland. The 6’3” slinger threw for a shade under 3000 yards as a sophomore. Compared to previous seasons by Case Keenum, Piland’s numbers are low but another year in charge and a second year under Head Coach Tony Levine should increase production. Helping matters will be the return of the team’s leading receiver, senior Dewayne Peace. In fact, the top four pass catchers from a season ago (Peace, along with Daniel Spencer, Deontay Greenberry and Larry McDuffey) will all be back to carry Houston into the American Athletic Conference. Other than throwing the ball, the Cougars were also surprisingly productive at getting behind the line on defense. They ranked in the top 25 in the country in both sacks and tackles for loss. Although the team’s leader in both categories has graduated, number two on each list was linebacker Derrick Mathews and he will be coming back for his junior season.

Starting running back Charles Sims decided to forgo his senior year and leave the program. This is a major blow to Houston’s hope of a balanced offensive attack. In 2012, no other back on the roster had more than three touchdowns while Sims managed 11 scores on the ground. He also accounted for nearly 50 percent of Houston’s rushing yards. A lot of pressure now falls on the shoulders of Piland behind center to do even more through the air. On the defensive side of things, the Cougars were one of the worst defenses in the nation in a number of categories and lost important starters to graduation to boot. Defensive leaders Phillip Steward and Everett Daniels were both seniors, as was now-NFL defensive back D.J. Hayden. Although their scoring defense a year ago was already abysmal, the loss of these three men will make things even worse. Overcoming the stigma attached to their defense will be a tall task for Mathews and the rest of the returning defensemen.

The Bottom Line:
Coach Levine has only been at the helm for one full season. Now Houston is tasked with changing conferences and recycling much of a defense that wasn’t very good to begin with. Hopefully quarterback David Piland progresses in this offense, but no matter how great he becomes, there might be some ugly contests this year; namely the Cougars’ November 16 game at Louisville. A successful year should not necessarily be measured with wins in 2013. The program needs to mature and acclimate itself to the AAC. That being said, this conference is not very good and Houston would hope to win at least a few games.

Projected Bowl: None

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 151.17 (70th in nation, 7th in conference)
Passing Offense: 328.42 (11, 2)
Total Offense: 479.58 (16, 2)
Scoring Offense: 32.42 (38, 4)
Rushing Defense: 192.75 (93, 8)
Pass Defense: 290.25 (115, 12)
Total Defense: 483.00 (115, 12)
Scoring Defense: 36.00 (108, 8)
Turnover Margin: -.33 (T-82, 8)
Sacks: 3.00 (10, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.58 (43, 2)


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